Here are two things I love: Instagram and coffee. Not necessarily in that order, but you get it. So you can imagine the joy I felt the first time I walked into Alfred Coffee on Melrose Place in LA and discovered a place that not only had the best coffee, but was also ridiculously Instagram-able. But it was only half as exciting as the call I got from Josh Zad, the founder + CEO of Alfred Coffee saying he wanted to contribute to the site. So obviously, the thing to have him do was to educate the rest of us on how to create spaces that feel totally authentic yet are completely worthy of the 'Gram. Read on and live your best Insta-life.
1. Emphasis On One Key Eye-Grabbing Element
At Alfred, it’s our neon. People can generally tell the Alfred locations apart just from the neon, and if you're scrolling thru Instagram or on the explorer page, it's always undeniable. Many (MANY) spaces have adopted an obsession with neon, but there is a flair in the design and placement of ours that make it a hallmark in each of our locations.
2. Plants, Plants and More Plants
If customers can touch the plants, they MUST be real. And if you plan on having plants for as long as you are in business, create an ongoing budget for them because they are plants and some will inevitably die. The ONLY time to use fake plants are if they are out of a customers reach. Real plants bring good energy into a space without that tacky feel of a fake plant.
3. Mixing High and Low Materials
Juxtaposing rustic and clean elements is very important to us. Rustic materials like brick, reclaimed wood and rusted steel create a “worn-in” coziness from day one that people appreciate the minute they walk into your café. They make the space feel warm and more inviting. On the other end, we like to incorporate clean, modern elements like walnut butcher block, brass lighting fixtures and wallpaper to let our customer know that we do care about appearances and impart an air of style and good taste as well.
4. Personality Pieces
Add things in that are meaningful to you or that you’ve collected. In Alfred Studio City, I have a painting that was in my grandmother’s living room for ages. Every time I walk in and see it, the painting makes me smile as I think of her and how nobody really knows this secret. In my Beverly Hills location, I had my favorite artist, Anna Valdez, paint the famous mantle from our first location on Melrose Place. For me, being from Beverly Hills and finally opening in the city I grew up in was a full-circle moment, and this piece captures that perfectly.
5. Innovative Drink Specials
The perfect complement to any space is a well-crafted, beautiful (and Instagram-able!) drink special. Fun colors, novel names and innovative ingredients are key, but your drink means nothing if it isn't tasty, too!
Every Alfred location has some variation of a 4 x 4-inch tile in it. Some are pastels, some are stripes. This is another hallmark of our café designs, and even though all Alfred locations have different design processes, the tile is one of those elements that ties them together and tips people off that they are in fact, at Alfred. Of course Alfred Tea (with two LA locations and two Japan locations) are draped head to toe, both inside and out, in our signature pink tile.
7. Be Consistent
Make sure everything looks tied together throughout all of the elements; a common theme throughout the details. Decide what that theme is, and stick to it. And don’t worry if sometimes during construction it feels too themed or too much of one color; inevitably the equipment, people, signage, plants and other last minute ornamentation will drape the space and dull down that theme a bit. I have to constantly remind myself of that!
Josh Zad is the Founder & CEO of Alfred Inc, the parent company of cult-favorite hangouts Alfred Coffee & Kitchen (@alfred) and Alfred Tea Room (@alfredtea). He has his B.A. in Economics from Yale University and his M.B.A. from UCLA Anderson in Finance/Real Estate.
After working in real estate development for 8+ years, Josh opened the first Alfred Coffee location — regarded by many as the most Instagram-able coffee shop in the world with its trademarked moniker "But First, Coffee.” — in 2013 on quiet, tree-lined Melrose Place in West Hollywood. Today Alfred Coffee currently boasts six locations around Los Angeles and Alfred Tea Room currently has a flagship in Los Angeles and two outposts in Tokyo.With his knack for eye-catching design and innate understanding of customer wants, Zad has developed Alfred into the standard bearer on how to successfully marry a brick and mortar offering with an enduring, memorable digital presence.
Now, in shifting gears full-time and creating Calidad, Zad is looking to do what he did with common, everyday beverages like coffee and tea but with a new product: BEER. Calidad addresses the market need for an uncomplicated and drinkable Mexican lager that is matched equally in its attention to design, brand story and consumer connection.